Certainly in Ireland at least, there is a mechanism whereby students, with otherwise good grades, are allowed to "pass by compensation" a module(s) that they have failed.
For example, a student presenting with 12x5 credit modules has an average of 55% in 11 modules (with marks above a passing grade of 40%) but one module is failed with a grade of 36%. Such a student is usually allowed to pass the module "by compensation". Usually the threshold is 35% but sometimes 30% and there is a condition on the quality of the other results presented.
I am doing a quick study of the compensation rules in Irish third level institutions (as far as I understand all but one offer this mechanism), but am trying to understand the rationale for the mechanism's existence. I list two below:
- Perhaps even early in a programme of study, a student specialises, excelling in one subject while struggling with another. The student should be rewarded for excelling and allow excellent performance in one area to 'compensate' for poorer performance in another.
- A student who performs badly in an assessment task may, for whatever reason, have achieved the learning outcomes but not demonstrated them in the assessment. In particular, a module(s) with poor grades at odds with the rest of the student's module results might signal that such an event has occurred. Rather than requiring the student to repeat the module, the student is given the benefit of the doubt, and is allowed pass by compensation.
I am interested in hearing what other good reasons there are for having such a mechanism.